Laws Concerning Women Earning a Living in Islam

Since the industrial revolution Western society has called for women to come out of the confines of their homes to work in offices and factories for increase production. This may have increased the financial standing of some women, however it has led to the breakdown of family life which is the most essential ingredient for a stable and wholesome society. In the beginning, the kuffar claimed that it was a means for a woman to become independent but now it has become incumbent on women to contribute to the upkeep of the household, therefore enslaving her.

This extremely stressful lifestyle has led to many medical complications in women never heard of before. Marriages have collapsed on an unprecedented scale due to the intermingling of sexes, and the ones that are mostly affected by this trend are the children. Children have lost the most important aspect of their developing years of life, the care, teaching, training, and upbringing of a loving mother. Regardless of how good a daycare center or babysitter is, there is no substitute to the loving touch of a mother.

The view of Islam is that the financial responsibility of the family solely rests on the shoulders of the man, while the woman is the shepherd of her home. When a family distributes the responsibilities in this manner they will prosper in this life and the next.

Allah Ta’ala states in the Quran:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend (to support them) from their means. {4:34}

The Messenger of Allah(صلى الله عليه وسلم)  has stated:

Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock … A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. [Bukhari #2554, Muslim #1829]

Shariah desires for a woman to remain in the confinements of her home and look after the domestic affairs.  Also, modesty is an essential part of Deen more so for a woman.  Shariah has never made it compulsory upon women to work.

  • From birth till marriage, Shariah has made the father responsible to provide for his daughter.
  • When she becomes a wife, the husband is made responsible.
  • If she is divorced or widowed her adult (baligh) children become responsible.
  • If they are minors or she has none, then the responsibility falls on the father once again.
  • If her father is no longer alive or is unable, the responsibility is placed upon the shoulders of her brother.
  • If she has no immediate relatives, then Shariah has made it that her far relatives (like, paternal uncles and paternal cousins) must look after her.
  • In a case where she has no relatives at all, the Islamic government has to take this responsibility.
  • In the absence of an Islamic state it becomes the responsibility of the Muslim community to look after her.

While this is the principle of Shariah, if none of the above are fulfilling their responsibilities or due to the changing times where even an ardent effort by the males to fulfill the needs (not wants) of the family is often not enough, then a woman will be allowed to work.

Islam also does not prohibit a woman from earning a halal sustenance. However Shariah has laid down certain laws and conditions for when a woman is allowed to work and when she is not.

Allah establishes the pristine position of women honoring them with great respect. Allah Ta’ala says,

“And remain in your homes and do not emerge like those of Jāhiliyyah (Era of Ignorance).”{33:33}

 The above verse is the basic injunction for women to secure them from all the vice and malice that may come their way.

 Therefore the ideal approach would be for her to work from the confines of her home. By the grace of Allah, like never before, there are many job opportunities that are available in the confinement of one’s home in this era of technological advancements. Along with cookery and tailoring there is a very good emerging market for typists, transcribers, virtual assistants and researchers.

If it is not possible for a woman to make use of such opportunities, and the need to earn a livelihood forces her to search for employment outside, she must take utmost care of the following:

  • Hijab
  • Refrain from mixing with non-relative males or marriageable-relatives
  • Permission of guardian or husband.

A. Hijab:

According to Shariah, a woman has to conceal her entire self, including her face from all non-relative males or marriageable-relatives.

This is an express order of Allah. He states:

 “O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go out).” {33: 59}

(For details refer to books and articles that have been written specifically on this topic)

 Therefore she should not leave home without proper concealment (hijāb, niqāb).

 B. Refrain from mixing with non-relative males or marriageable-relatives:

  •  First and foremost she should seek a job where there is absolutely no dealings with non-relative males or marriageable-relatives. Office or factory jobs where there are only women employees, Primary schools or an all-girls secondary school, or an all ladies clinic, nursing home or nursery etc.

 N.B. – The following will only be allowed if there is a genuine reason to work. If the needs of the woman and those under her care are looked after then it will not be permissible to work in an environment where she has to interact with non-mahram men.

Allah Ta’ala states:

“But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” {2:173}

  • If she was unable to find a job in a women-only environment then she should choose an employment which will allow her to adhere to her Sharī duties of hijāb and niqāb.

N.B. – It will not be permissible for her to take up such work in which she is interacting with non-mahram males without her hijab and niqab.

  • In no circumstance is she allowed to be alone with a non-relative male or marriageable-relative.

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) stated:

“Beware! No man stays in solitude with a woman but the devil is the third of them.” [Tirmithi #2165] 

  • She must avoid any and all unnecessary interaction with males while working. Even though she is covered with a hijāb, she must remember that the conspiracies of Shaitān are always a present danger.
  • If her job requires her to deal with male customers, then she should limit interaction to the level of necessity. She should do so while keeping her dignity and chastity.

Abu Usayd heard the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) say when he was coming out of the mosque, and men and women were mingled in the road: “Draw back! O women! for you must not walk in the middle of the road; keep to the sides of the road.” [Abu Dawud #5272]

Abdullah ibn Umar said: The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) prohibited that one, i.e. man, should walk between two women. [Abu Dawud # 5273]

  • She should deepen her voice so as not to make it feminine or alluring.

Allah commands:

“If you really fear Allah, do not speak softly lest the one in whose heart is a disease have any inclination, and speak fairly.” {33:32}

  • She must always keep her gaze in check and be conscious of Allah and His Deen.

Allah commands:

“And command the Muslim women to keep their gaze low and to protect their chastity.” {24:31}

  • She should limit her interaction, outside the house, to her work. Once work is finished, she should revert to her home. Avoid socializing and merry discussions at the workplace.

Allah Ta’ala states:

“But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], there is no sin upon him. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” {2:173}

  • She should negotiate her job description clearly from beforehand so that she does not have to compromise on her Deen at a later stage.
  • Whenever a job at home or within an all women’s environment becomes available, she must leave this job where she has to interact with men and take up any of those jobs.

 C. Permission from guardian or husband.

 1. In the case where a woman is looked after financially:

  • (i) But she desires to work in a women-only environment like a nursery etc. she will have to seek her guardian’s permission (father, or in his absence paternal grand- father or in his absence paternal uncle etc.) when she is not married, or her husband’s permission if she is married.

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

“The Lord’s pleasure is in the father’s pleasure, and the Lord’s displeasure is in the father’s displeasure.”

[Tirmithi #1869]

Allah Ta’ala states:

O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you.” {4:59}

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

The right of the husband on the wife is that … she should not leave the house except with his permission.”

[Musnad Abu Ya’laa #2458]

  • (ii) It will not be permissible for her to work in an environment where she will have to interact with non-mahram men even if her guardian or husband grants her permission.

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

“There is no obedience to any human being if it involves disobedience of Allah.”

[Ahmed #1098 Also see: Bukhari #7257; Muslim #1840]

  • (iii) And she works within the confines of her home and it does not cause her to neglect her responsibilities towards her husband, then she does not need her husband’s permission.
  • (iv) Even if she is working in the confines of her home but it is causing her to neglect her responsibilities towards her husband then he has the right to prevent her from her job.

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

Ibn Abbas (رضي الله عنه) says that a woman from the tribe of Khuth’am came to the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم)) and said, “O Rasulullah! Inform me of the right of the husband on the wife? I am a single woman. If I am able to (fulfil the rights of my husband then I will get married); otherwise I will remain single.” Rasulullah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, “The right of the husband on the wife is that when he calls her, she should respond to him even if she is mounted on the back of a camel. From the rights of the husband on the wife is that she should not fast voluntarily without his permission. If she does so, she will be hungry and thirsty; however, her fasting will not be accepted (by Allah Ta’ala).

[Musnadul Bazzar, Kashful Astaar #1464]

The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said:

“The woman that performs her five times daily salah, fasts in Ramadhan, protects her private parts, and obeys her husband will be told to enter Jannah from which ever door she desires.” [Musnad Ahmed #1661]

 2. If a woman has no choice but to work due to the husband not supporting her, or he is unable to support her, or she is a divorcee (and her ex-husband is not supporting her) or a widow and her father etc. are not supporting her then in this situation a woman may leave the confines of her home (following conditions A & B mentioned above) to seek her livelihood even without the permission of her guardian or husband.

N.B. – Whenever the livelihood of a woman in eddah is taken care of, she must terminate her job outside of the home.

 3. In those situations where it becomes binding on a woman to financially support some of her close relatives when they are unable to support themselves For instance:

  • (i) If her husband is unable to support her and their children and she is wealthy, then it becomes binding on her to support them. She will then be reimbursed by her husband when he becomes fit to work.
  • (ii) If her parents are unable to support themselves then it becomes the responsibility of the children (male and female) to support their parents.
  • (iii) If her brother or sister is unable to support themselves and they are not married or their parents are deceased or unable to support them and they do not have adult children then it becomes binding on their siblings (male and female) to support them.
  • In these final three instances even if her father or husband does not permit her to leave the house and work she is still allowed to do such (following conditions A & B mentioned above).

 N.B. – A woman will not be allowed to travel 48 miles or above to a job unless accompanied by a mahram.

And Allah Ta’ala knows best.

References:

  1. Quran
  2. Musnad Ahmed
  3. Bukhari
  4. Muslim
  5. Abu Dawud
  6. Tirmithi
  7. Musnad Abu Ya’laa
  8. Kashful Astaar
  9. Khawateen ki Mulaazamat by Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani
  10. Askimam.org (Hazrat Mufti Ibrahim Desai, Mufti Faisal bin Abdul Hameed,  Mufti Ehzaz Ajmeri)
  11. Aap ke Masaail aur unka hal 7/76
  12. Fatawa Darul Uloom Zakariyah 4/387
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